Blogs Around The World

Blogs Around The World

  • Dog Food Ethics

    I held the tube of food in my hand and looked at my wife and said “We’re feeding our dog better food than what children around the world are eating.” My wife stopped and realized how true that was. It made us pause and think about how much we in the States (the good ol’ U S of A) treat our dogs and cats better than we do hungry children. And I’m not just talking about those really sappy-meant-to-be-a-tear-jerker-guilt-trip commercial on feeding children in developing countries. I’m talking about just here in the States, just here in west Michigan.

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  • Anniversaries

    I wanted to devote this post to some reflections on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, 51 years ago today, and figured that a good way to do so would be by recourse to a poem written about the event. Lo and behold, my college library has a copy of a whole anthology—some four-score pieces—dedicated to just that: Of Poetry and Power. The prevailing tone, obviously, is sadness and lament, with an occasional barb at Dallas for being a city of hatred.

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  • "Ubi Sunt"

    Ubi sunt, that grief is called in literature—a grief of soul at the transience of life, of my life and yours. I know what what ubi sunt is. I taught literature for a lifetime; but that I knew it in a textbook didn’t heal the sad pain.

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  • 25 Things I Love about Life in Uganda

    (Not in any particular order) 1) Singing. Ugandans sing all the time. If you take a walk, every fourth person or so will be singing and almost always it's a Christian worship song to God. And the people here in church sing in perfect harmony effortlessly. It is breathtakingly beautiful. 2) Avocados. I love them, and they are fresh and local, not shipped thousands of miles. I can get about 8 for $1.00. 3) Animals at home. We are allowed to have goats and chickens and a dog and chameleons and really whatever animals we want, right in town. Two of my favorite things are... 

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  • Revive Us Again!

    I long for revival! I long for the day when revival comes to Australia and to other western nations. I long for the day when the presence of God is realized in the midst of our nation, when God is seen in industry, commerce, politics, in national and international affairs! "God our Saviour, ... will you not revive us again?" (Psalm 85:4,6)   This prayer of the sons of Korah is the cry of my heart! I long for the great awakenings that marked the 18th and 19th centuries in America and Europe.

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  • Maturity and Gratitude

    Preaching through Ephesians has been good for me this fall, and I hope good for our church too. One theme that has jumped out to me is maturity. How mature are you as a follower of Jesus? Maturity looks like knowing what you believe so that you're able to engage with our culture wisely, recognizing both the good and the wrong, and working towards healthy communities. It looks like serving others instead of yourself, it looks like unity (as I talked about in my last post), and maturity looks like gratitude.

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  • A Crushing Season

    Wiman briefly described Tomáš Halík’s radical rethinking of Jesus’ mustard seed parables. Halík, the winner of this year’s Templeton Prize, argues that the smallness of the mustard seed should be thought of not as a lack, but as a concentration. That’s already an interesting enough idea by itself, but what really grabbed my attention was Wiman’s comment—an aside really—that for the seed to have its full impact it “must be crushed.”  

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  • In the Presence of Death

    My sister called to say I should hurry home because Mom had been diagnosed with something that wasn't about to leave--and she might, at any time. We too were maybe four hours east when the call came. We happened to be right there at an exit I'll now never forget, one with a windmill. I didn't hesitate for a moment, took the ramp, turned around, and came back home. We'd need more than we packed to say goodbye. There'd be the funeral.

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  • Jubilee Justice

    Justice. It’s all the rage. People cry foul and injustice at retail giants for not paying a fair wage or for forcing workers to work on Thanksgiving. People cry foul at the immigration laws. People call foul and tell people to check their privilege (especially if they are white). People call for justice to be done and take from the rich to redistribute to the poor. Justice then becomes a call for equality by means of knocking someone down a peg.

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  • What Do You Mean By "Prayer"?

    Prayer is speaking to God. Prayer is not exhausted in a non-descript, merely emotive or ethereal encounter with the divine. Prayer consists in the discursive, descriptive, determinate and dialogical soul engaged in a meaningful interchange with the person of God. Eastern meditative traditions actively try to deprive the religious mind of rational discourse. Don't think however, that I would jettison the great host of Christian mystics...

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  • Article 12 and Seeking the Good of the University

    The Government of the Student Body is actively engaged with the university administration, the city of Ames, and at all levels of government.  In all of this, the GSB’s goal is to bring about improvements to the lives of all those connected to Iowa State University. This seems, in my estimation, a great place for Christians to serve. It is a great place for Reformed believers to promote the dignity and worth of all human persons, the necessity of caring for the earth, and improving the academic environment–all things that are near and dear to our tradition.

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  • Tales of Woe

    For years, Alton, Iowa, had a liquor store, the only one in this neighborhood. Alton, some guy once told me, is home to two kinds of people: Roman Catholics and Hollanders who can't live with Hollanders. I'm not saying that's true, but sometimes myth tells a better story than mere facts.

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  • What Do You Mean by "Discipleship"?

    In a first century Jewish context, a disciple was simply a “follower” or “learner” of a specific rabbi or teacher. Followers viewed rabbis as the definitive and authoritative voice in the interpretation of scripture and its application in daily life. As a rabbi, Jesus did not simply supply good teaching for pupils to consume. Jesus provided a worldview for how to live all of life! Discipleship did not happen in a vacuum. The context where Jesus taught his followers was always the context of a genuine relationship. Jesus spent time with his followers. He knew them. He invested in them.

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  • Faith at Work - What Do You Wish Your Pastor Knew?

    The whole area of faith and work has become a key area for exploration, conferences, and scholarship. This interest reflects dissatisfaction with the sacred and secular divide that still pervades this conversation. Despite the lessons of the Reformation, people do not generally see that their work is honored as a calling or understood by the church...

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  • Do More than Thank a Vet

    Today, November 11, is called Veterans’ Day. It was for years called Armistice Day, the day in which we celebrated the ending of the War to End all Wars. Instead, it began a new era of warfare that constantly changes and adapts. And the casualties are those who never came home, and those who came home, but never really returned. Do more than thank a veteran today. Be compassionate and loving. Be understanding when they have a hard time with someone standing behind their back, or not being able to see all the exits in a room.

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  • Renewing the Sense of Place Pt. 1

    Before moving to Niagara Falls, Ontario my wife and I considered and pondered and prayed whether we were being called back into church planting. We were driven to go deep within ourselves, our passions and overall concern for the church.  Something unsettling, that had been lingering for quite some time, came to the surface.  Both my wife and I realized that we hurt that many many churches had lost a “sense of place” and some...

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  • Ghost Dance

    The Ghost Dance, one of the saddest religions of all time, was a frenetic hobgoblin of Christianity, mysticism, Native ritual, and sheer desperation that swept Native life throughout the American west in the final years of the 19th century. Wovoka, a Piute holy man, saw the original vision, then designed the ritual from his own revelation...

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  • Towards a Better Conversation about the Origin of the Universe

    I don’t have any definite answers for how the world was formed. The research done at MSU with star formation and evolution of e.coli suggest that the world is old and evolution had a role in its formation. Nonetheless, evolution raises questions about how to interpret the Bible in terms of the first humans and how death and sin entered the world. Neither side, if that’s even helpful language, has all the answers.

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  • Marilynne Robinson on Jonathan Edwards

    I was intrigued to read Robinson’s essay, “Jonathan Edwards in a New Light,” in the November/December 2014 issue of Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The subtitle of the article is distinctly unpromising—no, downright irritating: “Remembered for Preaching Fire and Brimstone, He Was Actually One of the Great Intellectuals of His Time.” Talk about a ‘duh’! Every Edwards scholar since Perry Miller seventy years ago has been saying this. A graduate student two hours into seminar reading knows it.

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  • What We Do When We Are Not Doing Exciting Things

    Both Anthony and I have the normal routine activities like cooking, cleaning, doing dishes, and washing laundry. But there are lots of "real" work activities we do too. Our communication with our supporters through our blog and prayer letters is an important part of our work. We also spend time doing research and studying various topics to prepare training and teaching materials...

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  • Unity

    How many breakups in the church or relationships are based on wanting things your own way instead of caring about unity? How often have we said that unity is important, but when it gets too uncomfortable and things don't go our way often enough, we go our own way? I believe that too many Christians often don't really care enough about what Jesus has taught or desired about unity. Too many are more concerned about their own level of comfort and their own desires than Jesus'. How else do we explain the number of church splits or Christians who leave their churches...

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  • Milkweed Pinups

    "Walking beans" was never a joy, but it was tolerable when my father-in-law would talk about farming way back when he was a kid. Truth?--I didn't mind the job. In a field of soybeans, weeds are, well, obvious; all you had to do was knock 'em down, whack 'em, take 'em out any way you can. Milkweed was particularly pernicious because it has a lateral root, meaning that taking one plant out was only going to invigorate another down the line...

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  • Always Eat Your Vegetables

    As we wind our way up the road that leads high into the cool, shady mountains of coffee country, Doña Nereyda breaks our silence with an exclamation. “Look there!” She says. “It’s tuna cactus! We have to get some leaves for tomorrow.” Dona Nereyda has been looking out of the car window, pointing out the different plants, trees, and fruit. She takes stock of the resources available in each community and talks to the residents...

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  • What Do You Mean By "Kingdom"?

    Many Christians have drawn the conclusion that the answer to that question is, ‘To have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.’ Or to put it another way, ‘To be born again.’ And never would I want to downplay something as rich and beautiful as that. But to use musical terms, we have mistaken key for tune. The key of my melodious journey, and I pray you too, is that I walk with Jesus. But the melody, the grand orchestra, is that of the Kingdom of God. We, and thusly our relationship with Jesus, are a very, very small part of the Kingdom...

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  • Thirst

    “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” I’m not sure what I’m about to say is instructive or merely sensational, but one can die from thirst in four days, even if all you’re doing is praying. I’m guessing none of us—heavy drinkers included—really know the extremity of the opening line of Psalm 42, but then neither do I.  I can’t remember a time in my life when...Well, hold on. I used to bale hay...

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  • Modern Eugenics

    This past Sunday my husband and I were watching the show, 60 Minutes. The story that caught my attention was that of a young couple who had chosen in vitro fertilization not because they have fertility problems, but because they wanted to be able to select an embryo that did not have a particular gene. It turns out that the woman being interviewed carries a breast cancer gene that can cause a particular aggressive form of breast cancer, a cancer she herself had been diagnosed with at age 27. She did not want her children to be faced with that prospect.

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  • What Is God's Will for My Life?

    A question asked of me often, "What is God's will for my life?", or "How do I know God's will for my life?" These are good questions and loaded questions. Good, because many Christians truly desire to know where God would have them, what steps of faith he is asking them to take, and how God might use their lives for the next 50 years on this spinning globe. The God's will question is also a loaded question. Loaded, because many Christians are not really asking to know God's will. They are typically asking more self-centered questions...

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  • Getting Along

    Very early in the morning on November 29, 1864, Rev. Chivington, a fire-and-brimstone preacher who'd founded a Denver seminary, led those 700 troops into Black Kettle's camp and killed--massacred--50 men and 110 women and children, wounding scores more. Today, 150 years later, there's very little at Sand Creek to catch the eye, but there's ever so much to stop the soul...

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  • The Heart of Worship Renewal

    I have found that in America there are two different schools of thought concerning how to answer this question. The first group answers that worship is a "service unto God." The object and goal of worship is to honor and glorify God. As a result, worship is God-focused. It is not about the worshipper, but the God who is worshipped. The second group answers that worship is a "time to lay your burdens down and be encouraged." The object and goal of worship for these folks is to provide excitement, emotional release, and a feeling of God's presence.

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  • The Power of (Other People's) Prayer

    There have been many times where I have fervently prayed. I prayed my knees out when my one week old daughter was in the hospital after she stopped breathing. I prayed my guts out when I was in the hospital for a week due to a TIA, not knowing what my future held. I prayed and prayed for leading and guidance as my wife and I sought God’s direction and discernment in taking a new charge in west Michigan. Each day, I begin with prayer. Each day I begin with seeking God’s Word, meditating on it, and coming to Him in prayer. And then there are the times where I don’t pray at all...

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  • Children Teach Parents about Health

    “I thought that my daughter was just learning to sing and dance in this program because I heard her practice at home each day” said a parent from Pikine village. “Then I saw her do skits with her friends and ask the audience questions during their presentation, and I was touched and happy. I realized that they learned many things about health that will be useful to them in the future.” In each of the villages, the participants did several skits that were entertaining but carried a serious message too. They were about topics like forced marriage, HIV and AIDS, and teen pregnancy...

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  • What Do You Mean By "Sacrament"?

    It’s an old word.  One that for much of my life I took for granted – never really thought much of it.  I attended a non-denominational college in which the word “sacrament” was never used, but then again, we rarely ever talked about our different understandings of baptism or Communion.  It wasn’t until I took a part-time youth ministry position at a non-CRC church that I was first forced to think about the meaning of “sacrament.”  I remember having a conversation...

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  • Let Us Grieve

    When you’ve watched someone decline over a nine-year period—quite gradually at first, then accelerating, finally leaving very little of the person you once knew—you come to think that the last step would be rather small. I seem to have anticipated a process like a sunset over Lake Michigan. The sun drops slowly toward the horizon, then touches it, then is a quarter below the surface, a half, three-quarters, only a tiny slice left, and then entirely gone. Just a wee slipping away with no visible change in the light around us on the shore.

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  • Why University Students Should Know Horton

    Dr. Horton’s book, Christless Christianity, is an example of how contemporary Christian culture (particularly in the U.S) has gone off the rails. In the book, Horton shows how many churches have been taken captive by such things as consumerism, pragmatism, and self-sufficiency. We live in a place and time in which the gospel is often seen as a means to an end (personal transformation), the church as a place to entertain and give advice for your best life now, and Christians as conservative Republicans crying out against the persecution of a liberal society...

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  • Amuria TLT - Stewardship

    My heart is full of joy and I'm only sharing with you a few of the great stories. I am so grateful for the privilege of being able to be in Uganda and have God use me here. This post is about my training last week in Amuria, which was the 2nd manual of Timothy Leadership Training called "Christian Stewardship" and is about managing our resources, giving in church, and being good stewards of God's creation, our time, work, bodies, and talents...

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  • A Conversation with a Journalist

    I am so excited about this upcoming message on the parable of a journalist. Four have agreed to help me with sermon research. Yesterday I sent out a few exegetical questions for each to engage. This morning I got my first response (from the TV producer). After reading her answer to my first question I was kind of taken aback. Already her journalistic heart was teaching me something new about God – something I hadn’t thought of before. Below is how the conversation played out – first, my initial question, then her answer and then my response to her answer...

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  • Gifting and Power for Ministry

    Have you ever asked these questions? Why am I not as gifted as ..?  Why can't I do ... when others can? Why does God not give me the right gifts to do ministry? Even as I write these sentences, I find them sad and short-sighted. Having walked with believers and ministry workers for decades, I believe that most of us secretly wish we had different gifts. We wish we could be like someone we look up to in ministry. We are painfully aware of our shortcomings. Deep within we believe that life and ministry would be different if we were just different...

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  • "Out of Africa" (iv) -- Stranger

    A young woman walks up. Even though the world is, I'm quite sure, entirely Islamic, she's not hiding her face, as I would have expected. There's no birqua. Islamic women are not supposed to be showy, I'm thinking, but this one is wound up in a gorgeous robe so profligate with color it's almost blinding. You can't look away. It's beautiful, as she is--young and pretty. She smiles at the men she's serving. It's clear she knows them...

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  • What Do You Mean By "The Gospel"

    Think beyond the success of a work project or the victory of your favorite sports team. There are bigger questions within the heart of every person. What is my purpose? Will I be ever be fully accepted and understood? I’ve made a mess of my life. Where do I go from here? If you believe in the existence of an active God in our universe, those questions get heavier. I have ignored him, lied to him, doubted him, and distrusted him. I know how I would respond if someone treated me like that. Is there a way I can live with God...

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  • Being a Disciple and Obedience

    I'm reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship again and every time I read his book, it gets me thinking. Some would say that's a good thing, some might say it's kind of scary, but here's what Bonhoeffer has me thinking about today. I'm struck again by his emphasis on obedience as a key part of being a disciple of Jesus. In fact, without obedience to God, there is no faith. This is striking a chord in me. Granted, the institutional church has gotten a bad name because of its focus on rules over grace and on believing the right doctrine over...

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  • Zuni's "Big House" Is Gone

    It is no more, but for a 100 years in Zuni there was only one “big house.” To say it loomed over the pueblo risks understatement. Even in its declining years nothing in town could rival its massive triangular bulk. It was not just one-of-a-kind, it was defiantly so, as if some miscreant Kansas tornado dropped it in the middle of town. The first buildings the Christian Reformed Church built at the Zuni pueblo were hardly spectacular, but the denomination hadn’t been in the mission business long. In fact, Rev.

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  • Reflections on Farming God's Way

    We talked about how each person has an impact on the environment through their actions. There was a lot of discussion on deforestation and the importance of planting trees, especially native trees. They also calculated the cost per month for using firewood, charcoal, or LPG (gas) for cooking for a family of four.  I was surprised to find out that using gas is actually the least expensive. And it does not cause respiratory issues. The challenge is...

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  • Missional Prayer

    In an age where we seemed focused on comfort, on what we want or think we need, all of which might be very good, Elijah’s prayer is quite different. Elijah doesn’t pray, “O YHWH, save me from this situation.” He also doesn’t pray “Please send fire and burn up this bull.” He also doesn’t pray “Please strike down these false prophets who are leading Israel astray.” I think that might have been reasonable as well. No, Elijah prays that...

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  • Always Remember!

    Mom suffered a stroke almost nine years ago that left her in a memory-loss unit for the duration. Much of that time she was able—and eager—to talk about things from her youth and childhood. If damage to her short-term memory prevented her from remembering what she had for lunch, well, frankly, that wasn’t all bad. Her left peripheral vision was shot too, but that, we joked, simply confirmed her congenital Republicanism... 

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  • At the Heart of World Renew's Calling

    What is really at the heart of World Renew’s calling to show compassion to the poor? I think that respect and striving to impact the root causes of poverty are two of the keys. First, we try to work respectfully across cultures, races, and religious ways of life. At the community level, two of the main ways that interpersonal respect manifests itself are in requiring self-reliance and in the amazing multiplication effect that self-reliance produces.

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  • Esther Eye

    Esther is about 13 years old and has a quiet, sweet nature with a great smile. The other day we noticed something was wrong with her eye. She said it was injured when grass got in it.  It took awhile to get the whole story but from what we gathered she got a piece of grass in it two years ago (!).  We all prayed for her and asked God to heal her eye. We also gave her sunglasses which she wears everywhere to protect her eye. Grace was crying that night for her friend Esther. It was on all of our hearts. We love Esther and did not want to see her lose her sight.

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  • Transitions

    I haven’t posted much here the last few months. A lot of transition has been happening. My family and I moved from Washington DC to Holland, Michigan in July. We were unable to continue our efforts of building community with Roots DC for a variety of factors, and it was a sad farewell. We had an amazing time in the almost two years we were there, and I’ve resisted writing about it because it is still something I am processing and a bit hard to put into words...

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  • Picking up Flowers for Fran

    I picked up a small flower arrangement for Fran, from one of the florists who’s been helping me with this Sunday’s sermon. Each of the times I’ve dropped into Anne’s shop this week, I’ve exegeted a different facet of her vocation back to her. It’s been quite profound for both of us. And I walk away even more convinced of the need for a good book on the spirituality of vocation. I asked her for a few floral maintenance tips. She pointed to one of the Frescias and ran her finger down the dark green, unopened blooms. “Every single one of these should bloom,” she said.

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  • Grace Saved Me

    Do you think of yourself as a sinner? What a strange concept for so many people today. We live in a time where everyone wins and everyone gets praised for normal everyday achievements. I don't normally watch shows like American Idol, but I did appreciate one of the judge's comments to a singer who was especially bad, "Hasn't anyone ever told you that you cannot sing?"...

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  • Religion in the Workplace

    While I find it troubling that someone was rejected for a job on the basis of her Christian faith, I’m almost more troubled by a quote from Ms. Paquette herself in which she claims, “My beliefs have developed who I am as an individual, but they don’t come into play when I am doing my job.” Really? I would hope the opposite is true – that one’s beliefs have a profound impact on one’s work...

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